I am exhausted.
Every day, I watch what I say and how I say it. Because I'm a professional. And every day, I watch as others with far bigger platforms than the one I stand on do the opposite.
Actress Roseanne Barr was not professional on Tuesday when she tweeted that former presidential aide Valerie Jarrett was an ape. She was racist. And, bless it, she wasn't even original.
The comedian's words, cast off as a weightless aside, have a long and heavy tail.
My father, a Korean War veteran, told stories about how young Korean women would follow the black soldiers around, hoping for a glimpse of the tail that some of the white soldiers had assured them they had. That's just one tale out of time about people debasing and belittling black people by resorting to likening them to apes.
When a person uses that term to talk about anyone, regardless of color, it's to belittle the person, degrade the person and reduce them to an animal. It's easier to dismiss their talents and accomplishments when one uses reductive statements. When a person uses that term to talk about a person of color, it carries implications far past the denotation of the word. It has history; it has shackles; it has fire.
And this time, it burned the wielder. Oh, Icarus.
There will be no excuses made here for her. It's 2018. She should know that it's wrong to characterize anyone as an animal, even for a cheap Twitter laugh.
Barr, a spewer of vitriol and courter of controversy as part of her comedy, probably thought she was all Steven Seagal: Above the Law. Her show was being heralded as the second coming of a new classic. Some were touting her as a TV hero because she imbued her character with her same political views. She believed too much of her own press.
But this time, there was more than a hiccup: ABC President Channing Dungey is a black woman. We can't oversimplify this; everyone knows Dungey didn't, couldn't make this decision alone. That's not how any of this works. The action was swift, and the public reaction was swifter.
Dungey had this to say: "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show."
Parse that one-sentence statement:
1. The brevity says more than a full page ever could. ABC couldn't be bothered to say any more.
2. The cancellation was secondary because it was darn near assumed by the time the statement was released.
3. When you see the word "our," substitute "my."
First, Dungey needed people to know what she thought. And last, she needed people to know she wasn't all talk. There was going to be action.
What she really meant was: You are going to learn today.
Roseanne Barr will bounce back. There's always an opportunity for someone who has been in the public psyche for so long; there's always someone who thinks they can fix brokenness and lead someone to another truth. Besides, apologies can and should stick if they are meaningful; the same optimism that others look to applies to her, too.
The only sad thing here is that Barr singlehandedly took down a show that had a chance in its second season to become less issues-oriented and become more of the show it used to be: about a family that celebrates differences by talking about them.
Barr let down her castmates. She let down TV as a whole.
Plus ca change, plus
Already, there's a call on Facebook to boycott ABC for the cancellation.
You know what I have to say to that? Forget Roseanne. #SaveLucifer.